As people raise their glasses, we take pause in the continuous momentum of time to mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next. We remember the joys and losses of 2014, and turn to the New Year to set new intentions. By February, the majority of those intentions will be forgotten.
With deep longings to live in the direction of our dreams, why do so many resolutions fail?
Both ancient wisdom and modern science agree. Habit.
Habit nature starts as simple tendencies, with little hold on us. When we engage the tendency we create a groove in the brain (technically more like a lightening storm). The more we engage the tendency, the deeper the grooves get. The deeper the grooves, the more likely we are to fall into them. We begin to live by this habit nature, doing what we’ve always done and getting what we’ve always gotten.
To create something new, we must make a new groove, which is a lot like building a muscle. It takes practice, repetition and time – at least 30 days of repetition according to the experts.
Whether you want to lose weight, get organized, fall in love or create a more peaceful life, here are some skillful steps to for creating new habits in the New Year:
1) Create a Clear Goal
Know the exact shape, distance and size of a target. It will produce better results then simply shooting arrows at a vague idea. Also make it visceral. When you can see it as well as feel it you can better hit it.
2) Understand Why
Losing weight may be the goal, but the deeper driving desire may be to feel more free and comfortable in your body and life. Identifying the underlying needs offers both flexibility and fortitude for the journey ahead.
3) Make a Realistic Plan
Flesh out the day-to-day action steps. What is the very first step? Can you commit to it? What about the next and the next? Action steps must reflect your personality and also mesh with the realities of your life.
4) Identify Obstacles
Each goal will inevitably bring up obstacles, from family and friends to inner beliefs and attachments. Strategize for the ones you know and be willing to compassionately address new ones as they arise.
5) Plan for Slips
We most likely will not be perfect in creating a new habit. Accept this and create strategies that keep you headed in the right direction, even if you step off the path from time to time.
6) Make It Fun
If you are not having fun, you probably won’t stick with it. Mix it up, give yourself rewards and celebrate the small steps. Just like bees, we like honey much more than vinegar.
7) Enlist support
Accountability helps. Whether you enlist friends, support groups, on-line forums or a professional coach, checking in daily or weekly can help you stay honest with yourself and your progress.
As you step into new habits have faith in yourself and keep an eye out for the happy accidents that support you along the way.
Jackie Dobrinska is a wellness coach, yoga therapist and owner of A Simple Vibrant Life (asimplevibrantlife.com). You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 828.337.2737.